‘Twas the night before Saturday, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The children were tucked in their beds with care, and the soft sound of snoring floated through air.
When all of a sudden there was a huge BOOM, as a noise like a freight train roared through the room.’
News of the earthquake in Canterbury on 4 September has been reported around the world. There is a handful of TLRNZ staff located in the area, including myself. This is my personal account.
Waking to sensation of the house shaking violently and the sound of thundering, creaking, smashing, was a little unexpected at 4.35 on Saturday morning. My first reaction was to thump my husband while shouting “EARTHQUAKE”, then fly out of bed to collect our three children who were hiding under their covers. I wonder if that’s what they taught them during earthquake drill at school.
It took a minute or so to gather everyone by the kitchen table, and the house was still rocking and rolling, easing then gaining momentum again. It seemed endless.
We piled into the car and sat in the middle of the driveway where nothing could fall on us. Listening to Radio Live as the car rocked through the quakes, we heard caller after caller with shocked voices talk about their experience, nobody knowing what was happening. A friend phoned and said he was in the city centre, in front of him was a car crushed by bricks, the power was out, and he had been told by a police officer that there was a serious tsunami risk. It was chaos, he said.
We went back into our – thankfully undamaged – house about 5.30am, cuddled the boys up on the sofa, made coffee and started picking things up. Amazingly, every single Brookers looseleaf had stayed on the shelf, so no broken binders to worry about. In fact, we had very little damage at all. Aftershocks continued to jangle our nerves as we waited another three hours for the news to come on the TV.
There followed an anxious morning glued to the TV and a surreal afternoon basking in the warm spring Canterbury sun. Cellphones and the landline were buzzing, everyone checking that everyone else was OK. No fatalities and only a few casualties, it was a miracle. Every now and then a tremor would send our hearts racing.
Friends who live in a beach suburb had turned up shortly after the first quake, scared of a tsunami with no idea where the quake had hit. Later that day, the guys managed to find a rural shop that had power and was open so they could buy essential supplies – fresh milk and beer. We were well stocked with other essentials.
A wired weekend full of shocks with little sleep carried on into the first working day of the week, when Christchurch and Canterbury got to grips with the damage and started the big clear up. People we hadn’t heard from for years contacted us to check we were OK.
As I write, we are still anticipating the Richter scale 6 aftershock that has been predicted by the experts. Nervous wrecks enough, and jumping at every loud noise, we’re trying to put out of our minds the stern warnings by geologists that this was nothing like the Big One they say is overdue by 150 years. Best for Canterbury to cope one earthquake at a time.
And for the emergency services, civil defence, and everyone else that has left their families at home to work hard to restore essential services, thank you.